Russian security officers detained Sushchenko, a correspondent for Ukraine's state news agency Ukrinform, on September 30, 2016, when he arrived in Moscow from Paris, the Russian weekly Argumenty i fakty reported. He had travelled to Russia on vacation to visit relatives, according to his employer.
His arrest on espionage charges was not disclosed until the Public Monitoring Commission, a Russian human rights group, spotted him on an October 2, 2016, visit to the Lefortovo detention center in Moscow, according to Ukraine's Channel 24 TV. Until this date, neither his family nor employer knew his whereabouts. Sushchenko was not allowed to see his lawyer, Mark Feygin, until October 4, when the two met for 15 minutes, the news website Ukrainska Pravda reported. According to media reports, the Ukrainian consul was not permitted to meet with the journalist until October 10.
The press service of Russia's Federal Security Service, or FSB, said on October 3, 2016, that Sushchenko was a Ukrainian Defense Ministry intelligence officer who was in Russia "to collect classified information on the activities of the Russian military and national guard" that "could hurt Russia's defense capabilities if leaked abroad." The FSB said it had initiated a criminal case under article 276 of the criminal code for espionage.
On October 7, 2016, Sushchenko was formally charged with espionage.
Sushchenko, who has been Ukrinform's Paris correspondent since 2010, denied the charge.
Ukrinform dismissed the accusations of espionage as false and called the arrest a "planned provocation." The agency described Sushchenko as "a journalist with many years of impeccable professional reputation." According to the journalist's colleagues, Sushchenko covered French events such as local elections and meetings related to Ukraine and the European Union, and interviewed Ukrainian officials visiting Paris. He also covered meetings between Ukrainian and European Union officials on Crimea and eastern Ukraine.
Ukrainian Defense Intelligence denied the FSB's accusations, the news website Vector News reported.
In a statement reported by Ukrinform, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry called Sushchenko's arrest "another step in the purposeful policy of the Russian Federation to use Ukrainians, who are in the hands of the authorities, as political hostages in its hybrid aggression against our country."
On September 12, 2018, Russia’s Supreme Court upheld the verdict. Ukrainian news agency UNIAN quoted Sushchenko on the same day as saying in the courtroom that he was in a “good physical and moral state.”
On November 7, 2018, the journalist’s employer Ukrinform reported that Suchchenko is being detained in prison colony No. 11 near Kirov, a city over 800 kilometers north-east of Moscow.